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Minnesota Made: Kent Hrbek

The Land of 10,000 Lakes has a rich history of cultivating homegrown talent in the sport of baseball. Hear the authentic stories of those who grew in Minnesota and have had the chance to fulfill the childhood dream of wearing a Twins jersey.
Image courtesy of Courtesy of David Youngs from Tales From The Minnesota Twins Dugout, Kent Hrbek
Kids across the state of Minnesota grew up in the 60’s and 70’s idolizing the power of Harmon Killebrew, cherishing the hitting of Tony Oliva, and would spend hours at the park imitating the swing of Rod Carew.

Of all those kids, a boy from Bloomington would be the only one to cement his name amongst ones like Oliva, Carew, and Killebrew as one of the greats in Twins history.

Kent Hrbek never envisioned himself playing for the Minnesota Twins while growing up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. Just like any other kid he would spend his days playing pickup baseball with friends and watching the Twins when they were on TV.

“Back then you couldn’t really watch any other teams on TV besides maybe the Braves on TBS or maybe the Yankees, but that was it,” Hrbek said.

And while fans can find a way to watch every game in today’s world, things were a bit different back in the 60’s.

“Even the Twins only played 25 games or so per year on TV so you didn’t really get to see them much unless you went to the ballpark,” Hrbek recalled. “We went to the ballpark a lot when we were kids.”

That ballpark, Met Stadium, was just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Hrbek’s childhood home, and just miles from Kennedy High School. It was during his time at Bloomington Kennedy that Kent realized that baseball might be a path worth exploring after scouts started observing the young standout.

“My junior year I realized that I might have a shot and a path through baseball,” Hrbek recalled. “I just stuck with it, didn’t really do anything extra special."

Things would become special for ‘Herbie” after his hometown Twins drafted him in 1978. After powering through the Twins minor league system for a few seasons, Hrbek and other young talent got their chance at the big leagues in 1981.

“I was playing A-ball out in California and they gave a bunch of us guys a shot early because the parent club was struggling,” Hrbek recalled. “If the parent team was doing well I’m sure we never would’ve had a shot.”

That tail end of the ‘81 season was a “full circle” experience for Hrbek, getting to play at the ballpark where he grew up watching his hometown team.

“That was pretty cool,” Hrbek said.

Attached Image: 35549579303_87358a4089_o.jpg
Image Courtesy of Hajee, Flickr

Hometown Kid
Hrbek spent fourteen seasons in the Major Leagues, racking up a career .282 AVG with 293 HR and 1,086 RBI; all in a Minnesota Twins uniform, something that Kent is proud of.

“When I was a free agent there were a few teams looking at me, but I decided that I wanted to stay here,” Hrbek said. “I’m from here, my family was here.”

And while Hrbek could have gone elsewhere the was one factor that made staying in Minnesota a no brainer. His mother.

“In my entire career she had only missed two or three ball games at that point in my 14 years,” Hrbek said. “She was my biggest fan and I figured that if I moved away mom wouldn’t be able to watch too many games in person anymore.”

Hrbek credits another love of his to sticking around the Land of 10,000 Lakes; a deep passion for the outdoors, hunting, and fishing.

“I got to do some great hunting and fishing trips, still doing them today, and that’s one of the reasons I stuck around here,” Hrbek said.

“Just a Kid Going to the Ballpark”
There are few athletes who have done more for the state of Minnesota than Hrbek has. In addition to playing a key role in bringing the state it’s first two World Series, Hrbek remains a strong supporter of the Twins and the greater community. When he looks back at his time with the Twins Hrbek likes to think that he was just a kid getting to play the game he loved.

“I’d go to the ballpark and say ‘Hey mom, I'm going to the ballpark to play a game’ just like I did when I was eight years old living at home,” Hrbek said. “I tried to keep that perspective of ‘I’m just going out to play ball.’”

Attached Image: 13780619293_09c3b5ea7a_o.jpg
Image Courtesy of Metro Transit, Flickr

Over two decades removed from his playing career, Hrbek is no stranger to the Minnesota baseball community. He loves pulling up a barstool at ‘Hrbek’s’ at Target Field to enjoy a burger and beer with friends and fans. It’s those conversations that leave him feeling fulfilled.

“I seem to bump into people everyday who tell me what they were doing, where they were when we won the World Series," Hrbek said. “It’s fun to talk about it and be able to put smiles on people’s faces, that’s what I get out of it the most.”

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the Twins historic victory over the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first title in Minnesota. For Hrbek, the memories of not just victory, but the relationships that he’s built in this state through baseball, couldn’t be any sweeter.

“I pinch myself everyday because I grew up here, got to play here,” Hrbek said. “It’s given me a lot of opportunities and I thank the Twins a million times over for giving me the opportunity.”

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I have this sneaking hunch I wouldn't have been fond of Kent had he played for anyone else, but as a Twin he's one of my favorites. And since I'm not originally from Minnesota it's not solely the hometown aspect. Some other players may have stood out a little more but Kent was heart and soul of this team.

    • IndianaTwin likes this
Oct 26 2020 10:21 AM


Some other players may have stood out a little more but Kent was heart and soul of this team.


He sure was. No Hrbek = a different Puckett, et al.


I know we all appreciate and love Hrbek, but we also take him for granted too.


Hrbek was the first player who learned to get hits by chopping the ball downward to the Metrodome turf straight in front of him, sending the ball careening to the back of the infield as if it were a high fly ball. More than once, I saw opposing defenders catch the ball and not throw it to first, thinking they just caught a fly ball. Other times, the Twins could simply outrun the ball and make it to first before the defender had achance to throw to first. Genius stuff, and Hrbek showed the others how to do it. The Twins hit the weights just to be able to do this as hard as they could!


After several turf changes, this did not work as well by the late 80s/early 90s. 

    • ashbury likes this

My "guy" as a kid.Listened to Herb Carneal call his first home run at Yankee Stadium.Loved the down to earth nature of the man...he is 100% Minnesotan.Anyone who knows the game knows he should've won multiple Gold Gloves.Shame his career had to end with a strike in '94.Was thrilled/sad to be in attendance at the Dome when his number was retired by the Twins in '95.Still a great ambassador for the organization.

    • Doctor Gast and David Youngs like this
I use to Trick or Treat at his house as a kid. Now my nieces go because my brother still lives in the neighborhood.
    • David Youngs likes this
Oct 26 2020 04:56 PM

Hrbek was really a Minnesota kid in all the most positive respects. In the first year of the Vikings playing at the Metrodome I was walking by the road that led to the parking lot when a car fully loaded with young guys pulled up and tried to talk their way into the lot reserved for players and VIPs. It was Kent Hrbek and his pals all smashed into a rusty old little sedan. The attendant turned them away and I had to laugh at the entire simple nature of that scenario. A few of the other beer venders also saw this and we all liked Hrbek and agreed the guy should have let him into the lot. That first year the Metrodome was totally spartan and junk. Loud though. Hrbek should have been ROY and won a few Gold gloves but the two WS wins were sure sweet and I'm sure he doesn't have any regrets.

    • Doctor Gast and David Youngs like this
Oct 27 2020 06:59 PM

When commenting on Hrbek’s retirement, Peter Gammons summed it up well. “If he had stayed in better shape, he might have been a Hall of Famer,” Gammons said. 


“But we wouldn’t have loved him as much.” 

    • David Youngs likes this
One of my all time favorite Twins, who also happens to be underrated by a lot of Twins fans.

He could play.
    • ashbury likes this

One of my all time favorite Twins, who also happens to be underrated by a lot of Twins fans.

He could play.

Fun watching him in pregame infield practice, taking grounders at shortstop. He would not have made a good major league SS. But he was nimble for a big man. And he would take the extra base when it was a close decision and rarely get thrown out. So, concur: he was a ballplayer, not just a slugger.